Friday, April 17, 2009

Encounters at the End of the World

This 2007 Oscar nominated documentary by German filmmaker Werner Herzog starts with a question. Why in the world would advanced creatures actually seek to dwell in Antarctica? Herzog went into every aspect of Antarctic life that is inhabited by humans. He profiled those studying the air, water, flora, fauna, ice, even those studying volcanoes. What he found was a common thread of adventure and curiosity. The people who are down there are, as he puts it, dreamers and sojourners. Imagine a place with no native people, no language and populated almost entirely by scientists and engineers. What one gets when they view this pic is an inside look at the strange and wondrous things that inhabit this odd continent, but also a look into the 'society' of dreamers and sojourners who chose to go to great lengths to be there. As usual, Herzog narrates the entire thing, injecting the subject with his signature brand of bleakness and sometimes I felt like he was telling the audience how to feel much more than he was allowing the object of the inquiry to speak for itself. Because of this over narration, the film, at times, felt too similar to other doc's of his. However, overall, it's a fascinating look into a very interesting place and Herzog sure knows how to use his camera to capture the compelling and how to use his narration to explain just precisely what you're seeing has to say about humanity. Herzog is famous for his independent spirit and the sense of adventure he brings to filmmaking and it shows here. It's worth a watch, even if I feel like he achieved this purpose better in Little Dieter Needs to Fly, but that's just me. Pick them both up. And add Grizzly Man as a chaser.


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